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Feature: Gazans complain of Israeli tightened measures on trades

Xinhua, April 13, 2015 Adjust font size:

Anwar el-Ashi, Palestinian businessman from Gaza, is so concerned that he may soon shut down his business that has been going on for four decades due to a recent Israeli decision that bans him from importing goods.

El-Ashi, owner of the Gaza-based Arab Company to import woods, has large economical and trade ties with businessmen and companies in many Asian countries like China, Indonesia and India, as well as Italy in Europe.

However, his business has been recently threatened to collapse and may mislay all his commercial privileges he made in the past after the Israeli authorities prevented him from importing woods through the Israeli-controlled crossing of Kerem Shalom.

"The Palestinian side of the commercial crossing of Kerem Shalom had informed me two weeks ago of an Israel decision of stopping the import of all kinds of woods to the Gaza Strip," said the 52-year-old businessman, adding "they didn't tell me why."

He said that before the decision was made in late March, around ten wood-laden trucks were entering in Gaza per day through the Israeli-controlled crossing via Israeli seaports. "The decision has totally ended my business that has been going on for 40 years. This is unfair."

El-Ashi is one of 16 woods merchants in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli decision had damaged their businesses, according to Palestinian liaison officials working at Kerem Shalom.

Monir al-Ghalban, Palestinian director of the Gaza side of the crossing, told Xinhua that two weeks ago, the Israeli authorities handed the Palestinian side at Kerem Shalom crossing point a list of names of Gaza businessmen that can't import goods and woods from abroad.

"The decision of banning me from importing woods to the Gaza Strip is arbitrary and unjustified. The decision only means that Israel is retightening the siege on merchants and businessmen in order to completely destroy the weak economy of Gaza," said el-Ashi.

He noted that if his business collapses, "60 employees who are breadwinners of 60 families will remain jobless," adding "I used to have more employees in the past, but I had to discharge them due to the deteriorating economy here in Gaza. Israel uses security to fight our daily living."

After the large-scale Israeli military offensive waged on the Gaza Strip last summer, Palestinian merchants and businessmen have been complaining that Israel increased its tightened measures on their business in terms of import and export goods.

Although Israel had announced that it eased restrictions imposed on the movement of Gaza businessmen and issued around 1,000 permissions to merchants to travel from Gaza to Israel and to the West Bank, but at the same time it bans the import of many kinds of products.

Even the 1,000 Gaza businessmen complained that when they cross through the Israeli-controlled crossing points, the Israeli security stops them, and over the last few weeks, the Israeli security forces arrested more than 19 merchants at Erez Crossing point with Gaza.

According to Gaza rights groups, Israel has arrested 19 merchants since the beginning of this year, and six of them were convicted by Israeli courts, while 46 permits were confiscated.

Ali Hayek, chairman of the Gaza Businessmen Association, told Xinhua that arresting merchants, stopping others at police stations and confiscating the permissions of dozens of them "represent one of the biggest problems that faces merchants and businessmen."

"Although Israel always says that it relaxes its siege and its measures imposed on the Gaza Strip, but in the meantime, it keeps imposing restrictions on the trade movement and the businessmen. Israel doesn't listen to us, although we keep trying and talking to the Israeli side about that," said Hayek.

Maher Tabaa, official in Gaza Chamber of Commerce, told Xinhua that the Israeli measures against the businessmen of the Gaza Strip "are made in the frame with the general policy of Israel to tighten the blockade that was imposed on the Gaza Strip in 2007."

"Israel waged several military wars on the Gaza Strip over the past seven years, but now it is waging an economical war on us," said Tabaa, adding "whenever Israel says it eases its restrictions, we never believe these announcement because what happens on the ground is totally different."

Politicians in Gaza also said that the Israeli claims to ease the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip on one hand and tightens its measures against merchants on the other, which "make us doubt that Israel is really serious to make the life of Gaza population easier and better." Endit